Marcos Rojo scored a dramatic late winner to send Argentina through to the knockout stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Manchester United man marked his recall to the starting line-up in emphatic style, meeting fellow defender Gabriel Mercado’s cross with a superb volley four minutes from time to give Jorge Sampaoli’s side a 2-1 victory over Nigeria in a must-win game in Saint Petersburg.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi had given Argentina a 14th-minute lead with a stunning finish from Ever Banega’s pass but it was cancelled out early in the second half by a penalty from Chelsea’s Victor Moses, after Javier Mascherano hauled Leon Balogun to the ground.
The South Americans, who were runners-up in 2014, were heading for a shock early exit before Rojo’s magnificent finish ensured they finished second in Group D behind Croatia.
‘THE GOAL WAS FOR MY FAMILY’
Speaking to the media after his decisive contribution, Rojo dedicated his goal to his family and team-mates, and feels their first victory in Russia can kickstart their tournament as they bid to go one better than they did four years ago.
“We needed it,” Rojo told reporters.
“Now the World Cup begins for us. Lionel Messi told the guys he was going to score a goal and my goal is for my family and for this group that deserves it. Let’s go, Argentina!”
Ironically, Rojo also scored the winner for Argentina against Nigeria in their final group game of the World Cup in Brazil, in a 3-2 victory almost four years ago to the day.
It means he has already registered a goal and an assist in his two appearances in Russia so far, having set up Sergio Aguero’s strike in the opening 1-1 draw with Iceland, before being an unused substitute for the dismal 3-0 defeat to Croatia which left his country's qualification hopes in serious jeopardy.
Rojo could come up against his United team-mate Paul Pogba in the next round, when Argentina face France in their last-16 tie in Kazan on Saturday (kick-off 15:00 BST).
HOW YOU REACTED ON SOCIAL
Unsurprisingly, Rojo was quickly trending on Twitter and was the talk of all United fans after his fine finish took Argentina through to the knockout stage. Here are some of your best responses…
Go on Rojo!!!!— Mercurial Manc (@largeshish) 26 June 2018
Manchester United players are bossing the World Cup. Lingard scoring screamers, Lukaku banging goals for fun, Pogba shining for France and Rojo saving Messi. #WorldCup— Devils of United (@DevilsOfUnited) 26 June 2018